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Can doubts about the shroud strengthen Christian faith?

imageA reader sent me 1) a question, 2) a link to a Huffington Post article and 3) a Kindle book as a gift.

First the gift. It is Frank Schaeffer’s newest book, Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God. Yes, the gift will get your question published in the blog. I’d have published it anyway. Thanks. I may even read the book. It sounds interesting.

Who is Frank Schaeffer?  According to the New York Times:

To millions of evangelical Christians, the Schaeffer name is royal, and Frank is the reluctant, wayward, traitorous prince. His crime is not financial profligacy, like some pastors’ sons, but turning his back on Christian conservatives.

The generous reader pointed out these paragraphs in the HuffPo article written by Schaeffer:

. . .  I’ve never met an unequivocal atheist or religious believer. I’ve only met people of two, three or four or more minds–people just like me. Atheists sometimes pray and eloquent preachers secretly harbor doubts. The evangelist Billy Graham preached certain salvation and heaven guaranteed yet privately told my dad, a friend and fellow evangelist, that he feared death and had many doubts.

[. . . ]

Muslim, Jew, Hindu or Christian, you are that because of where and when you were born. If you are an atheist, you are that because of a book or two you read, or who your parents were and the century in which you were born. Don’t delude yourself: there are no good reasons for anything, just circumstances.

Don’t delude yourself: you may describe yourself to others by claiming a label of atheist, Jew, evangelical, gay or straight but you know that you are really lots more complicated than that, a gene-driven primate and something more. Want to be sure you have THE TRUTH about yourself and want to be consistent to that truth? Then prepare to go mad. Or prepare to turn off your brain and cling to some form or other of fundamentalism, be that religious or secular.

The question was simple and it was at least on the same continuum:

How much is study of the Shroud of Turin about dealing with our own uncertainties? I know you say your faith came first. You tell us that if the shroud were disproven, it wouldn’t change your faith. Are you sure?

I am a cradle Episcopalian. That much of Schaeffer’s thesis I must agree with. I’ve always had faith and I’ve always had my share of doubts. I like the integration of my fascination in the shroud with my faith. But one does not depend on the other, at least not too much so. But doubt can be a good thing with Christian faith and in the study of the shroud. It seems at times that doubts about this or that having to do with the shroud strengthens my Christian faith. And maybe it’s the other way around as well.

Thanks for the book and making me think about this question.

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